Wall of Water- Music and Images of our Time

Three powerful and evocative pieces of music by leading composers of our time, paired with striking projected images by leading artists John Yang, Neil Banas and Maggi Hambling. 

English Symphony Orchestra- Kenneth Woods, principal conductor
Harriet Mackenzie, violin

Deborah Pritchard – Violin Concerto: “Wall of Water”
Incorporating images of oil paintings by Maggi Hambling

Maggi Hambling_Wall of water_Amy Winehouse

“Wall of Water is written in response to the new series of paintings by artist Maggi Hambling and reflects the intense power, movement and depth of her work. Each wave is depicted musically as it transforms regarding architecture, energy and colour in an expressive dialogue between soloist and orchestra.”--Deborah Pritchard














Violinist Harriet Mackenzie

Violinist Harriet Mackenzie


Emily Doolittle – “falling still” for Violin and Strings
Incorporating the computational animation of Neil Banas

“Many of my pieces are inspired by sounds from the natural world, Although it might not be apparent on first listening, falling still is one of these. I wrote this piece after hearing a European blackbird singing against the gently changing background sounds of light rain at dawn. I was fascinated by how both sounds were beautiful, and the combination of them even more so, even though the bird is a living being, making choices about which sounds it produces, while the rain sound is the result of an inanimate process. Falling still  explores the contrast and combination between a warm, “living”, constantly changing sound – the extended violin melody – and the beautiful but stubbornly unchanging chord progression in the rest of the strings.”— Emily Doolittle

Kaija Saariaho- Terra Memoria” for String Orchestra (UK Premiere)
Incorporating the Photography of John Yang

Mt Zion 44

“The piece is dedicated “for those departed”. Some thoughts about this: we continue remembering the people who are no longer with us; the material – their life – is “complete”, nothing will be added to it. Those of us who are left behind are constantly reminded of our experiences together: our feelings continue to change about different aspects of their personality, certain memories keep on haunting us in our dreams. Even after many years, some of these memories change, some remain clear flashes which we can relive.  The title Terra Memoria refers to two words which are full of rich associations: to earth and memory. Here earth refers to my material, and memory to the way I’m working on it.” —Kaija Saariaho







The ESO will return to London for a second performance of Wall of Water at the National Gallery on January 30th. Details and booking information here. 


The Critical Response:

“In the event, Wall of Water proved to be an uncommonly interesting work.. the main sections of the work are superbly judged in terms of consolidation, unity and contrasts…Mackenzie returned for the first work in the second half, Emily Doolittle’s falling still, a haunting study inspired by the sounds of the natural world… Her’s is a very beautiful work, the shortest of the evening’s pieces, drawing the attentive listener in such as way as to invite – if not demand – quiet contemplation and sympathy. In many ways, this was the most purely musical work presented here, which also received what must have been an exemplary performance… Finally, a work by the Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, Terra memoria, which opens and closes as a study in pianissimo, but which, as the music’s events unfold, continues to present aspects of quite simple ideas which are developed and threaded in enthralling fashion…. Throughout this absorbing concert, one must pay tribute to the players’ musicianship, self-evidently as one in their desire to do their best, and to Kenneth Woods, whose skill and undemonstrative mastery of the music was a joy to behold.”

Robert Matthew-Walker, Classical Source


“As the projected paintings merge into one another, Pritchard offers a number of angles on this seascape, presenting the new perspectives with the aid of an enchanting harmonic palette. Her use of the violin is atmospheric, utilising passages of hazy incantation and searing virtuosity to unfold the narrative. Soloist Harriet Mackenzie gave a commanding performance, her direct sound matching the energy and bold colours of the paintings behind her. The luminous brilliance of her upper range was particularly effective in the more involved central section, as art and composition alike introduced new colours. With a tight structure, beguiling harmonies and a fantastical atmosphere, this concerto reveals Pritchard to have an innate talent for pacing and drama….”

Katy Wright, BachTrack


“Set against recent paintings, Walls of Water, by Maggie Hambling, projected behind the players, it makes an indelible impression of heartfelt emotions, genuinely expressed in a broadly tonal idiom. The second cadenza could have been written by Mendelssohn. But this is not derivative music. It contains an ability to reach out to an audience without patronising it with easy sounds or intentions. But it is memorable and such an attribute is hard to achieve with success no matter what the choice of musical language is made…This is a lovely, elegiac work with a beauty all of its own. This in no way disparages Hambling’s marvellous large scale images, so full of dynamic movement and restrained colour….  Mackenzie was a willing collaborator in bringing this violin concert to our attention. She poured a beauty of tone into the labyrinth of sound that the audience is drawn into in what is an ambitious work, full of nuances and colours. It is also a work that makes demands of considerable virtuosity on the part of the soloist and Mackenzie has a formidable technique that was put to best purpose inprojecting the music into the hearts and minds of the listeners. All the works heard were done full justice by Kenneth Woods and his fine group of players. He is a conductor who polishes and refines the works under his baton so that each work at this concert was heard to best possible effect.”

Edward Clark, Musical Opinion


Technical information

Orchestra of 12 string players, conductor and violin soloist
Requires high-quality projector and screen able to interface with a laptop